Above: director Chloe Sheppard

A Much Better Illusion is a beautifully mysterious film, can you tell us something about its themes? Which illusion is 'this' illusion better than?

The themes of the film are mainly to do with solitude, isolation and mundanity. The title is actually to do with a feeling I have sometimes, [which is]: "I make for a much better illusion than a human being" - a weird way of saying that sometimes I think the idea [that] people have of me is a lot better than the expectations I can live up to in real life, and that I'd rather be able to stay as something that can't be seen rather than having to face that.



Image credit: Liv Thurley

You have said that you like to make use of clichés in order to subvert them. Can you explain how you do that in this film?

The whole film is a bit of a cliché really. I'm really inspired by artists from the '60s, and bring that into a lot of my work, and with this film especially, I kind of just ran with it. Everything in the film, from the locations to the styling and how the make up was done, even with it being shot on 16mm, is all part of me trying to turn a "vintage cliché" around and show that if you want to make things look older, it doesn't necessarily have to be cheesy. There's a brief scene where Sylvie is standing underneath an underground sign, and it's like: "Oh, of course you shot your film in London and used the Underground", but I tried to find the oldest-looking sign I could to match the '60s aesthetic and not just be too typical. 


Tell me about your general interest in examining perspectives on contemporary womanhood and the male/female gaze.

I just find it really interesting how the male gaze has been so prevalent and accepted, and now being able to see such a big cultural shift in that. Within my own work, especially with my self portraits, I feel more comfortable knowing that there'll be people who will appreciate my work for what it is, and not just in an objectifying way. I wasn't as aware of it all until I studied media in college when I was 16, and learned about how media has revolved around the male gaze ways for so long, and then I was just too intrigued and repulsed by it to not make work that would eventually try to subvert it.



Image credit: Liv Thurley

Your model, Sylvie Makower, seems to share your interest in representations of women; can you tell us about your collaboration with her?

We first met years ago because of Instagram, I messaged her to shoot and that's where it all started! Our first shoot was in the rose garden that's actually in the film too, I chose to use that one again because of how meta it felt for this. We got on so well that we ended up becoming friends after it, and stayed shooting frequently too, and when I had the idea for this film it made sense to me to ask her to be the star of it as Sylvie has been so important to where I am today within my work. She is so intelligent and I've learned a lot from her, it's been lovely to have been able to collaborate with her in this way over the years. 

Image credit: Liv Thurley

The film has a very vintage look, what were your main cultural references?

I am super inspired by a lot of stuff from the 1960-70s, so reference-wise everything was from there. Whether it be music, other films, photographers, everything I used as inspiration for this film was taken from that time. Most notably I think the films that inspired me heavily for this would be Jeanne Dielman and Blow Up.


Above: the director and her model, Sylvie Makower

Tell us something about the film’s interesting choice of music. 

The opening and closing songs are two of my absolute favourites, and when I was going through the footage for the first time, those are the 2 songs that were playing in my head that I thought would match it so well. The middle songs are a bit more abstract, and I didn't envision it being that way originally. It was when I was with the editor, Ben Crook, and he threw the idea out there of potentially using an obscure '60s song in there, so we played around and was surprised by how much I liked it altogether. I think it lines up with there not being such a strong narrative and no real dialogue, it just makes the person watching think a bit more and adds to the mystery of it all I hope.

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